'I'm not wet behind the ears': Hamilton back on track

Briton weathers the storms of Silverstone, and his private life, to evoke memories of Senna

Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren's chief executive, said it was something nobody in the team would forget. He was not talking about Ayrton Senna's triumphal domination of the weather at Donington Park back in 1993, though he certainly could have been. Instead, he was assessing Lewis Hamilton's majestic victory in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone last week, which bore even the most forensic comparison with Senna's success.

In 2007, an insouciant Hamilton spent his rookie season embarrassing his infinitely more experienced team-mate, the double world champion Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard was so bruised he decamped back to Renault in a degree of dudgeon similar to that with which Alain Prost quit McLaren for Ferrari back in 1990 when Senna ran him out of town.

Hamilton's pace had showed hitherto unsuspected flaws in Alonso's make-up. Where he had seemed so peerless in 2005 and 2006 as he saw off Michael Schumacher, now Alonso looked like a man who could be beaten.

When Hamilton delivered another victory, in the opening race in Australia, he seemed set for an invincible run in 2008. Then came a practice error in Bahrain, followed by a stall on the start line and a misjudgement when he ran into the back of Alonso early in the race. He made amends for that in Monte Carlo, where a brush with the wall on the fifth lap actually helped him to a stunning victory in the wet. Then the pit-lane error in Montreal, where he failed to see a red light and augered into the back of Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari, set him back again.

Not helped by his father's reaction to a critical media, Hamilton experienced a backlash for the first time and, having also failed to score in Magny-Cours in a dull French Grand Prix, he went to Silverstone knowing that something very special was required to get what looked like a faltering championship campaign back on track.

What he delivered to his adoring fans transcended special. He made a wonderful start, jumping from fourth on the grid to rub wheels with his polesitting team-mate Heikki Kovalainen as they vied for the lead.

That move did not quite come off, but five laps later he slipped ahead on the entry to the daunting Becketts corner in a move that, Kovalainen admitted later, knocked the stuffing out of him. From then on Hamilton held the race in an iron grip that simply crushed everybody else, and won by more than a minute.

Throughout his recent trials he has maintained an outwardly even demeanour and not let the situation around him get on top of him. That is an interesting sign that he can weather such storms even if those closest to him are troubled by them. And boy, can he ever drive in the rain.

"There is nothing really I could take from Ayrton in the wet," he said, when the inevitable comparisons were drawn. "All I know is that he was spectacular in the wet, and growing up I knew that was something I wanted to master too. All my career I have worked very, very hard to become good in the wet. I am very sensitive, very comfortable in the wet, it comes naturally.

"And it hasn't been a matter of getting my mind right, it was always right, but I've just had a lot on my plate really. Some things in my personal life, nothing too serious, life in general. I want to win, I work hard, and I never have any doubts about my abilities, so I just keep pushing and eventually get there."

Sir Frank Williams said back in January that we were in for a wonderful season of racing and he was right, with Hamilton and his Ferrari rivals, Raikkonen and Felipe Massa, all level on 48 points heading into next weekend's German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, and Robert Kubica on 46.

Aerodynamic and mechanical changes have significantly improved the McLaren's balance, leading to a timely uplift in performance as Silverstone marked the season's midpoint. There, Ferrari looked worse than they really were because of strategic errors, but Hamilton believes he now has the tools to fight them for the rest of the year. "It's too early to say for sure," he said, "but we have made some very good steps."

And, as the FIA president Max Mosley's tawdry sex case drags through the courts, Hamilton boosted his troubled sport and spoke like a philosopher king who knows his crown awaits at season's end as he reflected on his upturn in fortune.

"Martin Luther King said something: 'It is not the times when we triumph and are successful that make us who we are, but the times when we are at our worst and going through our troubles that really build us and make us who we are.'

"That's a long way off the actual quote," he admitted, "but that's a very important thing." As important as victory at Silverstone.

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?